PICK your hero: Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Bailey Williams, Aaron Naughton or Adam Treloar.
All of them, and plenty more Western Bulldogs, were outstanding in a pulsating final term that saw the Dogs come from 14 points down to beat West Coast by seven points at Marvel Stadium.
In the best game of 2021 so far – and one that will be tough to beat for the remainder of the season – the Bulldogs came from behind to clinch the 14.16 (100) to 14.9 (93) victory on Sunday.
DOGS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
The Eagles looked set to snatch the win when unlikely hero Jamaine Jones booted his third goal with three minutes to play that put the Eagles up by five points. But Macrae deftly spotted up Naughton soon after for his second goal of the last term to put the Dogs back ahead by a point.
The Eagles had more chances, but their final opportunity was snuffed out when emerging defender Williams won a one-on-three battle on the half-back flank that led to Bontempelli's calm sealer, and his third goal of a huge outing.
Macrae finished with a game-high 40 disposals and nine clearances, while Treloar stepped up in the final quarter with nine disposals with more significant time inside the centre square.
The Dogs had held control of the game in the first half but that was turned on its head by West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui, who pieced together an extraordinary second half. The All-Australian big man finished with 40 hit-outs (including eight to advantage in the third quarter alone) and 11 clearances in a dominant display that was critical to the Eagles' charge.
'MONUMENTAL' Bevo heaps praise on Dogs' win
Dom Sheed (26 disposals, 11 clearances) and Tim Kelly (29) were the beneficiaries of Naitanui's work and helped the Eagles play with greater efficiency than the Dogs, partly due to a tall forward line stacked with talent and production, with Josh Kennedy (four goals), Jack Darling (three) and Oscar Allen (two) all involved at different stages.
But the Dogs kept finding answers. For that, they have plenty to thank.
Ryan's (non) mark of the year
It won't be his only attempt, but West Coast gun Liam Ryan missed out on a bid for mark of the year when his huge fly in the first quarter wasn't paid a mark. Ryan took lift-off inside 50 and hauled in the ball on his chest and controlled it to the ground, where it bobbled out late. With the umpires' views obstructed, it was not paid a mark, with Ryan pleading his case with officials at the quarter-time break. The premiership forward was electric in the first term, kicking a brilliant goal when he turned opponent Ryan Gardner inside out on the goal-line and snapped it cleverly. He flew for another huge grab in the third term but couldn't complete the leap.
Libba's milestone moment
Amongst the many big names of the Bulldogs' midfield, Tom Liberatore often sits comfortably out of the spotlight. But in his 150th game the 2016 premiership player was again critical to his side's dominance in that part of the ground, with the father-son gun picking up 26 disposals and nine clearances. Liberatore has faced a couple of significant setbacks in his 10-year career at the Dogs, including knee reconstructions that saw him miss nearly two full seasons (in 2015 and 2018) but reached his milestone match in terrific touch.
Is Macrae still underrated?
It seems strange to say that an All-Australian midfielder who has averaged 27 disposals over a 161-game career can be underrated. But the point stands that throughout so much discussion about the Bulldogs’ bulging midfield, Macrae is rarely in the first couple of names mentioned. He should be, and Sunday again showed why. The left-footed ball magnet was outstanding across the contest, powering the Dogs forward and adding eight inside-50s to his game-high possession tally. He has enjoyed a super start to the season.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 6.10 9.12 14.16 (100)
WEST COAST 3.2 6.3 12.6 14.9 (93)
Western Bulldogs: Bruce 3, Bontempelli 3, Naughton 3, Daniel, Dunkley, English, Smith Vandermeer
West Coast: Kennedy 4, Darling 3, Jones 3, Allen 2, Ryan 2
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Macrae, Daniel, Dunkley, Treloar, Naughton
West Coast: Naitanui, Sheed, Kelly, Kennedy, Hurn, Darling
Western Bulldogs: Nil
West Coast: Allen (shoulder), Naitanui (eye)
Western Bulldogs: Johannisen (unused)
West Coast: Ah Chee (unused)